Birds Do It. Bees Do It. And People with Disabilities Do It.

by Alie Kriofske Mainella
IndependenceFirstMilwaukee, WI

I was lucky enough to attend my first ever NationalSex Ed Conference in New Jersey last month and I learned so much.  I work with young people with disabilities and a big part of my job is teaching boundaries and personal space, healthy relationships, safe dating and sexuality for people with disabilities. 
When my colleagues and friends heard I was going, many asked me, “Will there be disability specific stuff there?”  And my response was always, “I doubt it. It’s a general sex ed conference and I am not sure that people are thinking about that nationally. I hope so though.”
Well, I have to say, WAY TO GO Centerfor Family Life Education! Not only were there two disability specific breakout sessions (Relationships and Sexuality for Adolescents on the Autism Spectrumwith Nancy Nowell and Sexuality Education and Developmental Disabilities: Whatworks, What Doesn’t with Katherine McLaughlin and Erin Livensparger) but in the Thursday morning keynote, sexuality and disability was a BIG part of the talk.  Christian Thrasher, director of the Center of Excellencefor Sexual Health at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, talked about the 2001 Surgeon General’s call to action.  The Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior specifically asked that those with disabilities who have, in the past, been ignored as sexual and have been historically abused or exploited at worst.  As a person who broaches this topic with teens and adults with disabilities on a daily basis, I was so happy to see this.
I was impressed with the conference as a whole, as an educator and professional, but really pleased specifically with the inclusion of persons with disabilities.